Susan Leopold MSW, RSW, RP, MPS, Expressive Arts Therapist
A Nested Story
One day walking along the beach, I came across a tiny bird's nest. Wispy and somewhat fragile, the nest appeared to have been placed with great care and respect on a bench. It was as if someone had meant for the nest to be seen ? perhaps even seen by me. As icy raindrops began falling, I left the little nest behind and continued briskly onwards along the path. When I circled back towards home I noticed the little nest had not been claimed. I gently placed it underneath the bench, hoping to protect it from the downpour. Clearly the nest and I had made a connection.
Later that day when I was back in my studio, the little nest resurfaced in my thoughts and would not let me go. I drove back to see if it had survived the rains or had been claimed. It was still there: soggy, tired, worn and in the process of fragmentation.
I cradled the nest in a protective paper cocoon, took it back to my studio, set it carefully on a shelf to dry and made a home for it. For weeks I imagined and played with all the possible ways to artistically transform this once very soggy and still broken nest through art processes such as assemblage, painted gold, preservation in wax. However, I sensed that the little nest just wanted "to be."
Allowed the space to become itself once again, the nest seemed encouraged to grow stronger. Its various twiggy parts dried and became nestlike again. I felt privileged to witness this process of reintegration from a fragmented assemblage of soggy twigs into the strong and whole little nest it once was. Simply looking at this newly reconfigured nest (made by an expert nest-maker) inspired in me the possibilities for new directions in my own work.
As an Art Psychotherapist I frequently witness a similar transformation of my clients' experiences of trauma during our therapy sessions. Many traumatized clients find it difficult to express what they feel. But many are able to use various forms of the expressive arts as vehicles to externalize unthinkable, unformulated and preverbal experiences of trauma, allowing them to go to places deep inside themselves where they often have no language or words to express what they feel. When clients are allowed the space to start where they are, to go at their own pace in order to feel safe and grounded, they are more able to use their own creative process to transform traumatic experience into their own narrative weaving words together into a nest of meaning.
originally published in Psychologica Magazine Summer Fall 2016
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